Hun Sen Stresses Need for National Airline

Prime Minister Hun Sen reiterated the need for a national airline Monday in response to a reporter’s question about the recent turmoil at Bangkok international airport.

“Now I think it is the right time for Cambodia to have its own national airway,” Hun Sen said at the National Assembly, though he did not give a timeline on when that might happen.

The government signed a contract with the Indonesian firm Rajawali group in April to replace the national carrier Royal Air Cambodge, which was liquidated in 2001. Rajawali group representatives could not be reached Monday evening for comment.

Hun Sen said with private sector management, the new airline should succeed where RAC failed.

Chea Aun, director-general of the State Secretariat for Civil Aviation, said he did not know when the new airline would begin operating or what it would be called.

“The company is preparing its master plan. It is up to the company,” he said.

Hun Sen’s statements come days after the reopening of Bang­kok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport following more than a week of closure, which cut 25 percent of all air travel to Cambodia’s two main airports.

Ho Vandy, president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents, said a national carrier would boost an industry dealing with the impact of the Bangkok closure and months of Thai political unrest. Continued upheaval in Thailand will continue to scare away tourists who would have otherwise bought package tours that include Cambodia and Thailand, he said. “If the national carrier is created, it will help the industry very much and create more opportunities,” Ho Vandy said. “The private sector is pushing for this.”

Khek Norinda, spokesman for Societe Concessionnaire des Aeroports, which operates Phnom Penh and Siem Reap international airports, said a national carrier would help develop the tourist industry.

“The national carrier would rely more on the country’s international airports network to bring passengers to Cambodia,” he wrote in an e-mail. “The national carrier would be instrumental in flying to destinations crucial for the development of Cambodia’s tourism” in places such as Sihanoukville, Ream and Ratanakkiri.

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